Analysis: Wallabies Backrow

Analysis: Wallabies Backrow
Lots of work from Hooper

Lots of work from Hooper

The Wallaby forwards played well in the second test against the Lions and built the platform for a gutsy win. I thought the tight five were particularly good.

In the first half the Lions won the battle at the breakdown which I thought was largely because the Lions backrowers, particularly Sam Warburton, were working harder and more effectively than their Wallaby counterparts.

As the match went on the weight of possession for the Wallabies started to tell on the Lions forwards and they tired noticeably. The Wallabies had 62% of possession and carried the ball 121 times to the Lions 55. As a result the Lions were forced to attempt 184 tackles compared to only 85 for the Wallabies. That led to the Wallabies taking the ball into 106 rucks compared to 49 for the Lions.

As the Lions forwards tired they became less effective at the breakdown and the Wallabies started to get on top. The Wallabies were helped by having Liam Gill on the bench so they played the last 20 minutes of the match with two very mobile backrowers on the park, one who was reasonably fresh. The Lions were disadvantaged because they effectively had very little in the way of lock cover on the bench forcing both locks to play the full match and they were two of the Lions forwards that were most ineffective in the last 20 minutes.

Overall the Wallabies retained the ball from 93% of their rucks whilst the Lions retained 92% of theirs.

I’ve been through the match and analysed the performance of the Wallaby backrowers in terms of the number of involvements and the effectiveness of those involvements. I measured involvements as carries, tackles attempted and hitting rucks (not standing as a guard or leaning on ruck once the ball was won or lost).

For each involvement I rated the effectiveness as:

  • Positive – where the involvement had a positive impact such as the ball carrier making ground, the player driving the ball carrier backwards or sideways in a tackle, the player shifted bodies or secured the ball at a ruck;
  • Neutral – where there was no positive impact but the player wasn’t going backwards;
  • Negative impact – where the player went backwards when carrying the ball, they missed a tackle, they made a tackle but the ball carrier went forwards from the initial point of contact, they went to ground in a ruck failing to clean out a player who stayed on their feet or they were driven out of a ruck.

As I went through this analysis it became more and more obvious how much work Stephen Moore had done so I included him as another backrower in my analysis.

The results were as follows with the Effective % being a combination of Positive and Neutral involvements:

Ben Mowen 46 57% 91%
Michael Hooper 53 40% 79%
Wycliff Palu 32 47% 72%
Liam Gill 22 64% 95%
Stephen Moore 55 60% 89%

Moore’s performance was outstanding, topping the number of involvements for the forwards with a higher percentage of positive involvements than any of the starting backrowers (60%). This measure doesn’t include any recognition of his excellent work at the set piece.

Ben Mowen was also very good, both in the lineout and around the park. He was very physical and as a result I rated a high percentage of his involvements as having a positive impact (57%).

Michael Hooper did a lot of work – he kept running and running but he had less of a positive impact, particularly at the breakdown where his lack of size doesn’t help him shift bodies or stay over the ball. Unless he can get into a ruck much earlier than the opposition he is not particularly effective at the ruck. I rated his positive involvements at only 40% which was the lowest of all the backrowers.

Wycliff Palu improved his performance from the first test. His workrate was quite good in the 60 minutes he was on the field with 32 involvements in that time. However, his positive involvements were only 47% which is not enough from an impact player.

Gill had 22 involvements in his 20 minutes and had a slightly higher impact percentage than Moore (64%). His return was what you’d want from a replacement – to make a positive impact and carry some of the workload for the players continuing on to play the full match.

Despite a good performance from the Wallaby forwards I won’t be surprised if Gill makes way for George Smith this week. Robbie Deans may be quite keen to have Smith on the field to end the match with his experience and leadership. That would make Gill very unlucky.


Scott is one of our regular contributors from the old days of G&GR. He has experience coaching Premier Grade with two clubs in Brisbane.

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